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The Turn to “Effective, but we don’t like it.”

Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, I predicted a coming story arc in three acts. Act one involved mass protests in the streets because Hillary Clinton’s campaign had successfully branded Trump as the next Hitler. Sure enough, we saw mass protests by anti-Trumpers who legitimately and honestly believed the country had just elected the next Hitler. I predicted that the Hitler phase would evaporate by summer for lack of supporting evidence. That happened.

I also predicted the anti-Trumpers would modify their attack from “Hitler” to “incompetent,” and that phase would last the summer. That happened too. The president’s critics called him incompetent and said the White House was in “chaos.” There were plenty of leaks, fake news, and even true stories to support that narrative, as I expected. Every anti-Trump news outlet, and even some that supported him started using “chaos” to describe the situation.

Now comes the fun part.

I predicted that the end of this three-part story would involve President Trump’s critics complaining that indeed he was “effective, but we don’t like it.” Or words to that effect. I based that prediction on the assumption he would get some big wins by the end of the year and it would no longer make sense to question his effectiveness, only his policy choices.

How does the anti-Trump media gracefully pivot from “chaos and incompetence” to a story of “effective, but we don’t like it”? They need an external event to justify the turn. They need a visible sign of the White House moving from rookie status to professional status.

They need General John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff.

Done.

Watch in awe as the anti-Trump coverage grudgingly admits things are starting to look more professional and “disciplined” at the White House. And as the president’s accomplishments start to mount up, you will see his critics’ grudging acceptance of his effectiveness, but not his policy choices. We’re entering that phase now with the help of a new Chief of Staff that even the mainstream media can’t hate. Generals command respect from both sides of the government because they have fought for both sides. No one forgets that.

Expect to see lots of stories about General Kelly bringing efficiency and effectiveness to the White House. Reporters and pundits don’t want to criticize a four-star general who fought for them. At best, expect the anti-Trumpers to say the Chief of Staff is calling the shots, not the President. That’s the predictable fake news attack. But I don’t think it will stick through the end of the year.

By year-end, expect “Effective, but we don’t like it.”

Now for some related fun. I have often said Trump supporters and anti-Trumpers are in the same movie theater but watching different movies on the same screen. You’ve seen lots of evidence of that, but I’m going to give you an experiment you can try at home. It might blow your mind.

1. Identify your most lefty, Trump-hating friend or family member.

2. Share this link of President Trump’s accomplishments while you are in the same room so you can watch them read it.

3. Watch as your lefty friend turns “cognitively blind” to the list of accomplishments as if it is not really there. Your subject will KNOW President has accomplished nothing, and all of his or her friends know it, and the television channels they watch know it. So how-the-hell could there be in existence an extensive list of legitimate accomplishments that make perfect sense and can easily be verified?

The only way that list of accomplishments can exist in your anti-Trumper’s world is if the anti-Trumper has been in a hallucination for months, duped by the media and everyone they love. The existence of the list of accomplishments will form a crack in their reality. It simply can’t exist. That’s the trigger for cognitive blindness. The list will simply be “invisible,” but not in the literal sense, only the mental sense. If you check back in two days, your anti-Trumper will claim once again no such list exists. Watch their eyes when they say it. It will be freaky.

Some anti-Trumpers will pick any one or two items from the list, argue that they are not good for the country, and use it as an excuse to see the rest of the list as nonsense. Some will simply tell you Trump has shepherded no “major legislation” through Congress, which is true. It is also true that he intentionally waited for Congress (and Obamacare) to fail hard before he got serious. The harder they fail, and the more dire the situation, the more power the president will have to push creative solutions on a weakened Congress. Keep in mind that President Trump is a predator when it comes to deal-making. He would have been an idiot to enter the fight hard and early when Congress was at full credibility and strength. That gets you nothing but a committee-made crap-law that may or may not have your name on it. By waiting, he accumulates leverage and widens his options. That’s how I would have played it. I would wait for the lobbyists, Congress, and my critics to punch themselves out before I involved the public and put together a plan to shove down Congress’ useless throats with the help of social media. 

I think the President would have been modestly happy with some kind of “skinny” win on healthcare. It would have been good for momentum. But he’ll be much happier with a real health care solution that takes advantage of innovation. (Our constipated Congress ignored innovative solutions, as far as I can tell.)

Frankly, I don’t know how much the world really needs tax reform or infrastructure spending. The stock market doesn’t seem to move on the news of either thing becoming more or less likely as we go. My prediction is that President Trump’s reelection chances (should he run again) will depend mostly on what happens with health care. If President Trump gets that right, on top of the things already going well, Mt. Rushmore could get crowded.

You might enjoy reading my book because you might want to have some accomplishments of your own.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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Health Care is a System, Not a Goal

Last night, Senator McCain cast the deciding vote to kill the “skinny” version of a proposed health care bill. Notice how he explains it as a failure of process, not a problem with the bill itself:

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”

Love him or hate him, McCain did what heroes do. He took a bullet to prevent Congress from ignoring the wishes of half the country. Now we have a chance to do it right. Let in some new voices. Consider some new options. Make it a team effort.

My optimism for a good health care outcome just hit its peak. Had they passed a bill, it would have limited their options for improvement to the stale ideas we’ve already heard. Now, for the first time, the public and perhaps Democrats can contribute some ideas and broaden the options.

Today is a very good day disguised as a bad one. If you think in terms of goals, Congress failed to pass a bill last night. But if you think in terms of systems, our options for solving health care just went from limited to plenty. We’re in the best position yet.

Did you wonder why President Trump seemed somewhat hands-off on health care? I think it’s because his strongest play as a negotiator involved waiting until Congress utterly and completely failed. That almost didn’t happen last night. It took a war hero to finish the job. 

Now it’s our turn to come up with better ideas, or to support better ideas wherever we see them. And if we are smart, we will insist on testing some ideas in limited ways, such as Special Health Care Zones in some states, and that sort of thing.

And we should be focused on innovation and technology to lower health care costs. There isn’t any other path forward.

You might enjoy reading my book because it is all about how systems are better than goals.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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How “Confident” are Intelligence Agencies that Russia Interfered with the Election?

Remember when all seventeen intelligence agencies agreed that Russia interfered with our elections?

Turns out it was only four.

Do you know how you get four agencies to agree on something of this nature? It’s easy. One publishes an opinion and the other three loyal agencies assume it is credible, so they support it. Do they all do independent investigations?

i kinda doubt it.

Based on my experience on this planet, probably one intelligence agency out of seventeen investigated and told the others they did a great job of it. Still, you can’t ignore even one intelligence agency that did an investigation and is totally positive Russian interfered with the election. That’s still credible information.

Wait, did I say “totally positive”? Here’s a quote from CIA Director Mike Pompeo from this past week: “I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election, as is the entire intelligence community.“ 

Is confident the same as totally positive? And are “the Russians” the same as Putin?

Personally, I use the word “confident” when I’m not 100% sure, but I think the evidence all points one way. Coincidentally, that is exactly what confirmation bias looks like too – all the signs point in the same direction. They just happen to be false signs. And it seems to me that a good non-Russian hacker could make a hack look like it came from anywhere.

A related thought is that real Russian government hackers wouldn’t have gotten caught. But that might underestimate our capacity to track this sort of thing.

But wait, if we can track this sort of thing and know who did it, using our secret methods, doesn’t that mean we are 100% positive? That’s different than being confident.

A few months ago, seventeen intelligence agencies knew for sure that the Russian government interfered in the election. Today, I’m guessing just one of them looked at the information in any detail. And we don’t know how well they can identify this sort of thing. They won’t tell us. For good reasons.

The intel agencies (or agency) didn’t convince the President of the United States that Russia interfered with the election, and the president would have access to all of the secret spy methods to convince himself they really know what they know. 

It is entirely possible that our intelligence agencies know Russia interfered with our elections. But they packaged it exactly like a bunch of lying weasels who are simply hoping they are right. I hope that’s just bad brand management and nothing worse.

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

You might enjoy reading my book because Russia.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

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I’m Not Your Pope (But Thanks for Asking)

A funny thing happened after my conversation with Sam Harris on the topic of President Trump. An avalanche of anti-Trumpers descended on my Twitter account and insisted I become their moral leader – sort of like their Pope. I have not accepted the job, but I can see the need.

Let me give you some context.

Sam Harris’ view on President Trump is that our new leader is a lying, unscrupulous, unethical con man. My view on President Trump is that he’s a skilled persuader who has offered to use his talents on behalf of the country. I have been silent on the ethics and morality questions because I trust people to make those decisions on their own. Personally, I would lie to a terrorist to save your child’s life. Some people would consider that immoral because lying is bad. I say every situation is unique, and we all have to make our own moral/ethical decisions as we go.

To me, that all seemed clear enough. I completely understand Sam’s criticisms of President Trump’s use of hyperbole and his casual relationship with the facts on the stuff that generally doesn’t matter. (As I like to say, President Trump is consistently “directionally accurate” even when he is playing loose with the facts. Persuasion looks exactly like that.

Anyway, my critics – who are also President Trump’s critics it seems – called out to me on Twitter to clarify the ethical and moral dimensions of this presidency. I didn’t think my opinion on that topic was useful because no one gets their ethical guidance from cartoonists. I figured people could work out the morality questions on their own. But I was wrong. The anti-Trumpers need a Pope. And apparently they want it to be me. I didn’t see this coming.

I will consider the job over the weekend and let them know my decision. If you see white smoke coming from the man-cave in my garage, it means I have accepted the position. 

You might enjoy reading my book because I’m sort of like a Pope to my critics. But without the cool hat. (Not saying I won’t get one.)

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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Dilbert Blog Moving to WordPress

We are making updates to the Dilbert blog (moving to the WordPress platform) that will result in an error message for many (example here).To minimize those affected, the site will be down starting Tuesday the 25th around midnight ET and be back online …

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Listen to My Conversation with Sam Harris — About President Trump

By popular demand, I had a two-hour conversation with Sam Harris (a prominent Trump critic) about our different “filters” on our new president. You can listen to it here.

The Haters of Imaginary Events are out in force already. They imagine I said objectionable things during my conversation with Sam and they tweet about their hallucinations in anger. So far, no one has accurately stated my opinion before criticizing it. That’s a tell for cognitive dissonance. I’ll be making those monkeys dance today on my Twitter feed here.

You might enjoy reading my book because monkeys are awesome.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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I Tell You How Citizens Can Fix Health Care (Now that Congress Failed)

Congress just proved something that we all suspected: They are the wrong tool for fixing health care. The topic is too complicated, the politics are too corrosive, and the money interests are too strong. That’s why citizens will step in and fill the gap with their own proposals. I expect to see a number of citizen-created health care proposals emerge soon. To that end, I thought I would get the ball rolling by framing the problem in this short 4-minute video. This is how any large business would approach the problem of spiraling healthcare costs. Here is the graphic from the video clip:

The advantage American citizens have in 2017, that we never had before, is a populist president who can sell the bejeezus out of a health care plan if someone could come up with one that makes sense. But for that to happen, Congress first had to do a hard faceplant in the asphalt, to show the country they are not the right tool for the job. That phase is complete. Time for the next phase.

You might enjoy reading my book because Congress is broken.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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People Who Can’t Recognize Humor (literally)

One of the most mind-boggling discoveries I made while becoming a professional humorist is that a large segment of the general public has no sense of humor. I mean that literally, in the same way that some people can’t tell the difference between good wine and bad, and some people are tone deaf. Humor appreciation is like every other human capacity. Some have it, some don’t.

My best estimate is that about a third of the public don’t possess the capacity to even recognize humor when they see it. But they pretend they do, for social reasons, the same way I used to pretend I liked expensive wine. The reality is that I couldn’t distinguish an ordinary wine from a great one. Both gave me the same type of headache. (I no longer drink alcohol. I see it as poison.)

I don’t mean this post to sound judgy. We all have different skills and different capacities for enjoying different things. I appreciate humor but I don’t get any joy whatsoever from drinking wine, and I don’t have much appreciation for music either. So let us not feel superior for having one type of appreciation that others do not. None of us have the full stack.

In support of my hypothesis that one-third of the public do not even recognize humor when they see it, I give you this satirical video as Exhibit A. On Twitter, lots of folks believed this was serious. Including the part where she mentions Morse Code via blinking. 

I made a similarly satirical video yesterday that generated a lot of hate-tweets from Trump supporters who didn’t realize I was joking. To be fair, my video ended with technical difficulties before I could clarify to the audience that I was presenting satire. That made it worse. But the people who are not humor-challenged knew it was a joke from the title alone. See if you can tell I was joking. My video is here.

You might enjoy reading my book because of all the ways you will appreciate it.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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North Korea is an Information Problem Disguised as a Military Problem

In the year 2017, most of our national problems are information problems. And by that I mean having the right information would allow us to solve most problems.

Consider the nuclear threat from North Korea. That’s an information problem disguised as a military problem. 

I hope that statement seems wrong to you, so you will be extra-impressed when I change your mind in the next hundred seconds.

If the U.S. government tries to strongarm China to control North Korea’s nuclear program, that might cause more problems than it solves. No one likes a government-to-government confrontation of that type. China would have to push back. It could get ugly fast.

But imagine what would happen if American consumers knew which American companies were doing the most business with China. 

And imagine American consumers understanding that China can turn off the economy of North Korea, like a switch, any time it wants, thus controlling North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Now connect the dots.

If you treat the North Korean nuclear threat as a military problem, it becomes one. If you treat it as an information problem, with an economic variable, it becomes that instead.

I’m in favor of my government trying to negotiate an agreement with China, Russia, and North Korea. But if our leaders can’t get it done, I ask the government to get out of the way. Citizens can take care of this one directly.

All we need is some information.

I think that took me less than a hundred seconds. 

You might enjoy reading my book while enjoying a delicious beverage because it is hot outside.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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International Relations in a Time of Nukes and Plenty

In olden days, if a neighboring kingdom was prosperous and capable, it was a risk to your security. A rich neighbor can assemble powerful armies to capture your resources and enslave your people. In those primitive times, any powerful empire was a real enemy, and you had to treat them as such.

Fast-forward to 2017, and some of those old rules have changed. A rich country with nuclear weapons won’t attack a weak country with nuclear weapons. Economics and national defense are somewhat disconnected in modern times. Nukes changed everything.

Our weapons have improved since the time of kings, but our way of thinking has not fully evolved. Consider Russia. We have every reason to cooperate for mutual economic benefit, and for fighting ISIS. And we have no real reasons for trying to screw each other at every turn. Our “reasons” are entirely in our heads.

The fancy word for that is cognitive dissonance.

We believe Russia is our adversary, because they were in the past, so we act as if they are now as well. Russia does the same, for the same reason. When they poke us, we poke back. When we imagine they might poke us, we poke them first, or prepare to be poked. But none of the poking helps either side in any meaningful way. It just feels as if it should. It is more reflex than reason.

President Trump came to power at an interesting time for civilization. He has exactly the right skillset (persuasion) to reframe our relationships with our traditional “adversaries” to something more productive. You might think prior presidents tried the same thing and failed. But unilaterally acting nice and talking nice isn’t enough. To sell the new frame you need real-world actions that shove all of us out of the old way of thinking. And it has to be a hard shove, mentally.

The “bad version” of this idea might include (as an example only) a treaty partnering NATO with both Russia and China to act against terrorism and against nuclear proliferation. In the year 2017, why do any of the big three military powers point their weapons at each other? No one has any intention of starting that sort of war. Why act as if we do?

If Russia wants a warm-weather port, or China wants to extend its military reach to some islands off their shores, those situations feel like problems for the U.S., so long as we regard them as military adversaries. But if we’re on the same team, it doesn’t mean as much.

This sort of reframing – from military adversaries to friendly competitors who are on a mission to improve life on Earth – wouldn’t work if limited to speeches and punditry. It would need real-world treaties and actions so everyone can see something physical changing. Words wouldn’t get it done.

In the modern world, the real enemies of the rich countries are some of the poor countries, with their nukes and their terrorists. Rich countries are not much risk to other rich countries in modern times. I think we would all do better if we recognized that reality. 

This would be a good time to remind you that cartoonists are not good sources of geopolitical wisdom. I present ideas such as this for entertainment, and to educate you on the finer points of persuasion when it applies. If anything I write here turns out to be useful in the bigger world, that would be a lucky benefit.

You might enjoy reading my book because people keep telling me they got fitter and got wealthier after they learned the difference between systems and goals. (I literally hear that every day now.)

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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Solving the North Korea Situation

I have some spare time this morning so I thought I would solve the North Korean nuclear threat problem.

The current frame on how all sides are approaching the problem is a win-lose setup. Either North Korea wins – and develops nukes that can reach the mainland USA – or the United States wins, and North Korea abandons its nuclear plans, loses face, loses leverage, and loses security. Our current framing of the situation doesn’t have a path to success. 

So how do you fix that situation?

First we must acknowledge that a win-lose model has no chance of success in this specific case because North Korea responds to threats by working harder to build nukes. That’s no good. You need some form of a win-win setup to make any kind of deal. That’s what I’m about to suggest. And by winning, I mean both sides get what they need, even if it isn’t exactly what they said they want

What the U.S. wants is a nuclear-free North Korea. That would be our win.

What North Korea wants is an ironclad national defense, prestige, prosperity, and maybe even reunification of the Koreas on their terms. So let me describe a way to get there. 

The main principle to keep in mind is that you can almost always reach a deal when two parties want different things. If we frame the situation as North Korea wanting nuclear weapons, and the U.S. not wanting them to have those nukes, no deal can be reached. There is no way for North Korea to simultaneously have nukes while having no nukes.

So you need to reframe the situation. The following deal structure does that.

Proposed North Korean Peace Deal

China, Russia, and U.S. sign a military security agreement to protect

BOTH

North Korea and South Korea from attack

BY ANYONE

for 100 years, in return for North Korea suspending its ICBM and nuclear weapons programs and allowing inspectors to confirm they are sticking to the deal.

At the end of a hundred years, North Korea and South Korea agree to unify under one rule. No other details on how that happens will be in the agreement. North Korea will be free to tell its people that the Kim dynasty negotiated to be the rulers of the unified country in a hundred years. South Korea will be free to announce that unification is a goal with no details attached. We will all be dead in 100 years, so we can agree to anything today. (That’s the key to making this work – all players will be dead before the end of it.)

The U.S. withdraws military assets from South Korea.

South Korea and North Korea reduce their non-nuclear military assets that point at each other.

Over the course of the 100-year deal, there could be a number of confidence-building steps in the agreement. For example, in ten years you might have a robust tourist arrangement. In twenty years, perhaps you can do business across borders. In fifty years, perhaps a unified currency (by then digital).

A hundred years is plenty of time for the Kim family to make their fortunes and move to Switzerland, or wherever, before unification is an issue. The deal might require some sort of International amnesty agreement for any North Korean leaders looking to get out of the country before unification.

Under this proposed deal structure all sides get what they want. North Korea’s leader can tell his people that their nuclear program was a big success because it resulted in the United States withdrawing forces, and it led to an eventual Korean unification on his terms. There is no opposition press in North Korea to dispute that framing. This looks like total victory to North Korea. That’s a win.

For the United States, a credible deal to get rid of North Korean nukes is a win. China and Russia would look like the adults in the room. They win too.

South Korea wins too, obviously. 

And this deal would probably result in Nobel Peace Prizes for the leaders of all countries involved. 

Students of history will recall that Great Britain agreed to lease Hong Kong from China for 99 years to avoid any risk of China taking Hong Kong militarily. The long lease period allowed both countries to agree to a deal that could not have been reached for a shorter time period. And it gave everyone time to plan for the peaceful transfer. No two situations are alike, but you can see how a hundred-year deal makes it easy to agree to difficult things today. We’ll all be dead before any of it matters. And if you work toward a common goal for a hundred years, the odds are good that it can happen. One way or another.

This is the sort of deal that would have been impossible in prior years. But the Trump administration understands the structure of dealmaking. This solution is available for the taking.

Update: President Trump tweeted that trade between China and North Korea is up 40% in the first quarter. Look at how he frames it:

This is what I have been describing as Trump’s go-to strategy of creating two ways to win and no way to lose. In this case, China either clamped down on North Korea (we win), or we can say we tried to get them to help and they refused.

That’s a free pass to do whatever we need to do, no matter how much China dislikes it. Hey, we tried it the other way. Clearly it didn’t work.

And it sets the table for all sides to get more serious about solving this non-militarily. Would you want President Trump to have a free pass to kill you?

My suggested deal structure is the only non-military option, as far as I can tell.

You might enjoy reading my book because I should get the Nobel Peace Prize for unifying North and South Korea with my excellent ideas.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page: fb.me/ScottAdamsOfficial

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